Yellow Snow

Fresh 5th December snow near our house, late evening. It had finally stopped snowing, thank god. We had done two shovelling sessions on this Sunday and my shoulders were hurting.

When I got out to take a look with the camera, the bushes and trees had turned into surrealist sculptures, lit up by the yellow street lamp. It was totally silent.


 
Dreamed I was an eskimo
Frozen wind began to blow
Under my boots and around my toes
The frost that bit the ground below
It was a hundred degrees below zero…

And my mama cried
And my mama cried
Nanook, a-no-no
Nanook, a-no-no
Don’t be a naughty eskimo
Save your money, don’t go to the show

Well I turned around and I said oh, oh oh
Well I turned around and I said oh, oh oh
Well I turned around and I said ho, ho
And the northern lights commenced to glow
And she said, with a tear in her eye
Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow
Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow


(Frank Zappa)

Sahara Of Snow & Other Places

Fragments today as there is a slightly fragmented, slightly surreal feeling – I just read something surreal, and something slightly surreal was there after a short nap in the early afternoon today.


SAHARA OF SNOW

The Sahara Of Snow we saw today was a perfect white surface that covered the hills; mostly perfect, gleaming in the early March sun, but here and there, a trail made by humans and a dog, trails made by deer who had galloped across the open field, maybe in the night or the early morning – leaving groups of four indentations in a row, then a wide gap to the next group; and mysterious small trails that began nowhere and ended nowhere, trails by large birds that had landed for unknown reasons, doing unknown work on the ground, thinking bird thoughts.

 
ZOOMING

Tomorrow Craig and Trinity will fly back from their short concert tour / vacation in Portugal to their home in Idaho. How wonderful that one can easily feel so connected to people from faraway even without knowing them very well. I wish we’d have more time. How wonderful also to play music together in front of a small audience. Some more about this later.

I looked their house up in Google Streetview and loved the large blooming lilacs all around – followed the street for a while without being able to see the mountains in the east. What a strange kind of spyhole I looked through, an unsharp kind of warped virtual reality consisting of frozen frames with cars standing still on the street, but me zooming from one frame to the next like a ghost in a world where time stands still while a sun shines that never moves.

How long until we’ll have telepresence robots that will allow us to walk and talk, representing us in faraway places?

 
TREE RINGS

Long rows and columns of numbers that represent tree rings and their sizes, created by an ancient Fortran software that is as old as my car – 23. The time we looked back to: 7000 years in the past.

How strange to think of the people who lived then, not knowing about Fortran, impossibly far removed from the faintest idea even of the concept, just as we are removed from their concepts. Long rows and columns of numbers, measurements, places, realities, landscapes, real lives, births, deaths.

I’ll write a software for these numbers that will reverse their sequence, and group them in a different way: In the Heidelberg format, maybe invented in this city in Germany that was also home to a factory that built the famous printing machines that I used to work on in my early youth, helping my father.

They had a black thing going forwards and backwards – it looked like a slightly eerie robot head, with one eye, and it had two arms, one taking up the next sheet, one putting the printed sheet down on a stack. I always wanted to record the sound they made but I never did.

 
SIDEBURNS

The impossibly fast minimalist patterns played by Keith Tippett on a grand piano (one that I’ve played myself for a few minutes last year), at times prepared on the fly with objects that I couldn’t see from my place. Never having seen him live but in love with his style of music since the early seventies, Lizard, Centipede.

Julie Tippetts (I forgot the story behind the “s”) somewhat aged visibly of course but with a voice that hadn’t. The drummer from Germany who I hadn’t heard of before, catalysing the piano/voice duet, leading and following with an astonishing degree of sensibility. An hour of hardly ever looking at each other because it wasn’t necessary – going to many faraway places together, totally in blind sync, rhythmic and dreamy, musical box and mbira, stately Purcell chords on the prepared piano that suddenly sounded like a cembalo. The audience was stunned and in awe.

“I understand that some people would like to hear more but this was all that we know.” The Britishness, the sideburns, the dry humour. What a genius. His playing took me to many places that felt totally right, taken directly from what I imagined I would have played without knowing it, without even beginning to have the musical vision for. And the idiosyncrasy that made me feel even closer to him.

 
BACKYARD

I took a friend out from my office room and showed him around the yard in front of the house, some patches of snow left here and there (that was days before we got new loads), blue sky, a promise of lilacs. I carried my notebook around and talked to him, he sat in his living room in Hamburg, hundreds of miles from here.

Then I went back in and he showed me around the flat, a street lined with large trees, a backyard. Sometimes the skype connection broke down and we had to reconnect. While he talks to me often his face turns into a modern painting when the software grapples with the low bandwidth – then sometimes out of the blue, the image freezes, the hissing freezes, and he is gone and we have to dial in again, continuing the exploration of the depth:

His experience in the moment, my experience in the moment. The moment is shared, some mysterious kind of energy is shared, the very fact of someone listening (without judging or valueing or commenting) creates a palpable difference in the atmosphere that changes the way we feel and think. Magical moments when we sync looking at the same thing.

A closeness, a conscious sharing of this, the hard-to-describe reality of what is simply here, something tangible that is obviously in the air and in the body, something impossible to describe that nobody can understand who has never done this, transported by tiny amounts of electricity across hundreds of miles.

 
DOG EYES

Early morning, Orion is already setting in the west beyond the hills, tiny dots of light from distant stars – the one on top of the constellation (al-Dhira, Bed Elgueze, Yedelgeuse … “hand of the giant”, 600 light years from here) is hundreds of times larger than our sun, a wobbling, oscillating, unstable red giant, something much more vast than we could ever imagine with our petty mammal brains, and destined to explode – hopefully, in many thousands of years, and not tomorrow – covering our skies with the flash of its death.

So it vanishes beyond the hill, winter is definitely over although there is snow all around. The clocks will be set to summer time soon. Another round, all things different, all the same.

Later in the morning: The shivering legs of a small dog that has to wait with his owner in the cold outside of a supermarket, probably for the owner’s wife to come back. The trust in the dark dog eyes when I talk to him. We are both here, different brains, but not different in what we are, and in a way, we both know it: Always on the cusp, on top of the wave, riding the mystery.

White Cone Of Wisdom


 
Lots of snow this winter – as always, a blessing and a curse. Salt is already sold out and it will probably stay cold for another few weeks. Hmm … too bad for Sabine who finally had her hip operation in early December, fortunately with good results so far, and will have to run around with crutches for another two months. No taking walks outside under these circumstances! Falling would be the last thing she could use now. She mostly copes surprisingly well with having to stay inside.

This morning, I shovelled some snow while it was still dark. It had snowed in the night and Sabine’s taxi was about to come to collect her and drive her to her rehab.

After she was gone, I looked out of the living room window. Dawn was coming and everything was blue and grey and very quiet. The world looked extremely delicate and fragile for a moment. After that, it continued to be simply very beautiful.

We prefer the summer but winter has its own magic. A friend from Melbourne expressed her envy on seeing the photo of me shovelling snow – apparently they never get snow there in winter except on the mountaintops. We feel very privileged to live in a place that has a wide variety of climates over the year.

Towards Y2K9 (1): All White

The first day of our trip to the West Coast: sitting in planes for 11 hours. We had to fly from Cologne to Amsterdam first – for some reason, the ticket that we bought didn’t allow us to take the train – we had to fly. Ok so we did. One thing that I found out about the Amsterdam airport is that they offer a meditation centre. How nice of them! Now I’ve spent many weeks of my life in meditation centres but on this day, I felt more like drinking coffee and looking at people.


 
The huge airbus that took us from Amsterdam to Seattle was flying right over the Dutch coast where we had spent such a nice weekend recently. Thanks again to our fabulous travel agent, Mr. Pflug from the Reisebüro Sonnenschein in Bergisch Gladbach – he knew which seats to reserve so we got a very nice view. I love flying and looking out of the window – when I can look down on this planet, travelling somewhere, I am a happy boy.


 
Travelling from AMS to SEA takes roughly 10 hours, and you move back through 10 time zones at the same time, so one could say that in a way, time stood still during that flight. It was late morning when we started, and it was still late morning when we arrived.


 
The most amazing thing was that we flew north of Iceland and right across Greenland, something that I had never done before. I had no idea what Greenland would look like – I thought it would be a featureless white desert. It really was for a while but the east coast was full of incredible mountain ranges – an alien planet without any signs of humans.


 
I really felt very much like a happy boy. While flying in a spaceship to alien planets will not be something I will ever experience, this was quite close. We both were in awe about the beauty of our planet. I was also awestruck how science fiction this trip was – there we sat, several miles above Greenland, heading towards the US where we would spend a hopefully nice vacation and play some concerts with my own music – thinking about it, even my recent music is very much science fiction. I listened to Robert Fripp’s Vista soundscapes while looking down on the icy scenery far below – a perfect soundtrack.


 
Flying over Greenland from east to west, the mountains got covered with more and more snow until there was only a white desert. All White, wasn’t there a Soft Machine track with that title?

Cat Silence

It’s slowly getting a bit warmer, the snow melts and everything is wet. Muckel is not amused. Last week while it was very cold he hardly went out to hunt mice and birds. He stayed in most of the time, but he was clearly in a bad mood.

Muckel belongs to our neighbours but since they are both away for work during the day, and I am at home in my office, pretending to work, he regularly comes to visit me in the morning and curls up in my lap for half an hour. When that gets too boring, he eventually goes out again.

I open the back door and let him out. We both listen without moving, Muckel sits on a dry spot under a chair, I stand at the door. We are alone. It is quiet, a far away plane hums, there are some birds trying to sing a spring song. There is a silence there that is much more than the absence of noise. It is palpable, there is the presence of silence.